Current Issue

  • Creating a New Mindset

    A new year brings with it new opportunities and a hope for better things to come. As 2014 draws to a close, course owners and operators would do well to make time to tap into their inner entrepreneur and challenge the way they approach their businesses. Here are seven tips to help start the new year with an entrepreneurial mindset.Read More

  • Battling the Big Guys

    Many public course operators lose the battle with big-box retailers when it comes to hardgoods sales, but management of The Frog in Villa Rica, Georgia, has gone on the offensive with its Equipment Incentive program.Read More

  • Raising the Stakes

    In order to raise serious capital in one fell swoop, course owners have been known to get creative. There are stories of operators offering limited ownership shares or lifetime memberships to their loyal customers. On the member-owned side of the business, clubs assess themselves for capital improvements more regularly than they would prefer to admit.Read More

MORE CONTENT

Online Exclusives

  • Getting To Know Jack
  • Getting To Know Jack

    The cameras were rolling when Golf Business editor Ronnie Musselwhite sat down to talk with Jack Nicklaus prior to him being presented with the NGCOA’s 2014 Award of Merit. See the full interview in this Golf Business video exclusive.Read More

January 2013

Back In the Game

by David Gould

Among the vital signs studied by golf industry data collectors, private-club membership is less frequently probed. But a recent National Golf Foundation survey turned a spotlight on the member-only segment, and the findings are compelling.

Core golfers who hold memberships at private clubs (17 percent of them do so) were asked how likely they were to keep paying dues for the next three years. It was an upbeat report, in which no less than 94 percent of respondents said they felt confident about continuing their memberships. According to researchers, this means that only 6 percent of current members could be classified as “somewhat vulnerable,” or in a group that doesn’t feel completely confident they’ll retain their private-club memberships in the next few years. Vulnerability appears highest among members who play large percentages of their rounds away from their club. Within the group of members who play 40 percent or more of their rounds away from their club, 15 percent are classified as vulnerable. Parsing these percentages, researchers decided the figures showed a willingness among members “to overlook high cost-per-visit numbers.”

Club consultant Otto Hartman—himself a former club manager—would disagree with that interpretation. “If a club is succeeding, and it expects to thrive in the future, its members aren’t keeping a tally of their visits in the back of their heads,” says Hartman, vice president of Creative Golf Marketing. “A private club needs to feel like an extension of each member’s home. That’s an old truism, and it has to be even more true today.”

Therefore, clubs have to allow a style of dress that fits into the flow of home and work life. And, since people today are wired to digital devices, Hartman contends that club managers should “provide facilities as close as possible to a business center.” In other words, the club can’t be a lifestyle component the member must go out of his or her way to patronize.

Few would debate this last point, but does it signal a monumental shift within the industry? Perhaps.

Since 2008, the member dropout rate at country clubs has been disturbingly high. This NGF study shows “lapsed members” leaning strongly toward rejoining in the future.

“Those who resigned their membership four to six years ago show the highest likelihood of joining again in the future (59 percent),” researchers noted.

Furthermore, NGF officials contend that these were golfers whose decision to resign their membership was highly influenced by recessionary circumstances. As such, they assert that this group of lapsed members represents a significant target market for private clubs in the next few years, provided the economy and personal financial situations are stable or improve.

David Morris, veteran manager of San Diego (California) Country Club, did welcome back a member just recently, but he doesn’t call that a trend. “I personally don’t see things getting better as we get further from the financial crisis,” says Morris, citing problematic demographics as the main barrier to growth. “The average age of our members is 65, which makes it difficult to achieve stability.”

Newly installed as general manager of suburban Atlanta’s Stonebridge Golf and Country Club, Chris Wyant has devised a plan for recapturing lapsed members in 2013. “The economy has come back to the extent that most former members ought to be candidates for returning,” he says. “We’ll be going into the database and sending letters or emails to any member who has resigned since 2008. It’s another form of marketing, and one we can’t overlook.”

One downbeat stat in the study identified members “vulnerable” to resignation as being those who play at least 40 percent of their golf at places other than their club—presumably at daily fee facilities—at least some of the time.

Share/Bookmark

Leave a Comment

Trojan 2012

SPS Golf Management Solutions

Featured Resource

Bright Ideas Archive

Brought to you by ValleyCrest Golf MaintenanceBright Ideas Icon 
Access some of the most creative ideas golf course owners and operators have to offer within the Bright Ideas area of the GB Archive.Read More

November 2014 Issue
  • CONTENTS
  • DIGITAL FLIPBOOK


Connect With Us


facebooktwitterNGCOABuyers GuideYouTube